Monday, January 10, 2011

What did I do

to deserve this?  I often ask myself this question when I'm dealing with my children.  Sounds loving and motherly, huh?  Anyone who has spent much time with my children, especially when they are together, has seen how typical and rambunctious and wild and crazy they are.  The modern fix is to give their boy-ness a name and medicate them  into more subdued behavior, or throw them in front of evil flickering machines (i.e. TV and electronic games) all day, or put them in "school" starting at age three (or 6 weeks), or make the family life revolve around driving them to activities, (instead of revolving around the marriage, which should be the most important relationship in the home) etc., none of which is acceptable to me.  I do understand that they are boys, and that if we lived in more primitive times they would be spending the day tearing things apart (the earth for farming), killing appropriately (food for dinner, skins for many uses), running and screaming joyfully (outside where it doesn't bother Mother), and enjoying and exploring all that the world has to offer.  Instead, we live in an urban setting, cooped up inside most of the time (since it's winter), with three wild boys who live to act out their primal urges and energy, which translates into tearing the house apart around the clock and constant screaming.

Of course I always envisioned myself raising quiet, well-mannered girls who would delight in learning the things I enjoy, particularly homemaking skills such as baking or sewing.  Instead, I keep having boys who could have been raised in the barn and not have any worse habits and manners than they display now (despite being told daily for years that their shirt is not a napkin, "please use the napkin in front of you", for example).  I hate to even spend much time thinking about what this next baby might be.  I don't want to feel disappointment if it is yet another boy, because how could I not be excited for any baby we are blessed with?  And some day, they will be all grown up and won't be trying my patience every waking moment.  I've heard older women whose children have long since been raised admonish young mothers (I hardly feel young any more) to not "wish away their childhoods", yet that is exactly what I often do, such as today when I was touch up painting all over the house because they have grimed it up so much in the six months we've lived here.   In my imagination, girls aren't so filthy

Anyway, with Dean being gone for the next couple of months (he's been gone 8 days now), I've decided to take the bull by the horns and get their most egregious behaviors under control.  I even have a "manual" by which to do it.  I started reading it two times, but couldn't ever get Darling Husband to read it with me, and all the authority figures need to be on the same page and do the same things in order to make it work.  Alas, he finally read it while traveling to the U.S. and is sending it back to me, so that I can finish reading it.  I have started with some things already (I have read a few of his other books, and did read part of this one), and am seeing improvement already, but we have a long way to go.

1.  It's always a huge pain to get Kyler to buckle up in the car.  I would tell him repeatedly to buckle up, he would ignore me and bounce around doing as he pleased.  I even slammed on the brakes a couple of times (at low speed with no cars around) to throw him  into the seat back in front of him.  He didn't like it at all, but it still didn't bother him enough to ever buckle up without the saga.  I once heard an idiot psychologist say that with children "repetition repetition repetition" is the key.  How wrong he is, and how worthless that advice.  Once I implemented the new method, I no longer have to remind (beg, plead, order, demand - all to no avail) Kyler to buckle up - the monkey is off my back.  He often does it on his own now, which is vastly better than never doing it.  Now, if after a reasonable amount of time he hasn't buckled up on his own, I simply inform him that he will be spending an hour in his room.  So far he has spent two or three hours in there (in one-hour increments on separate occasions), and doesn't like it one bit, but he knows he is in the wrong.  The monkey is on his back.  It's working.  Repetition never worked.  On a naturally well-behaved kid it might, but that's apparently not what I breed.

2.  "I wanna sit by Daddy!!!" with an ensuing screaming match and cat fight - at every meal.  I finally got smart and let them choose who would sit by Daddy every day for breakfast (Hunter), and who would every day for dinner (Kyler).  If I have to hear about it, neither one sits by Daddy.  How's that for being a mean mommy?  It's working.  I rarely hear about it.

3.  "I wanna sit in the front!!!" with ensuing screaming match and cat fight - ad nauseum.  And you might wonder why I am not loving every second I spend with them.  Again, we decided who would sit in the "front" (the middle seat of the van) for the trip "there" - happens to be Kyler, and who would sit in the front for the trip "home" - happens to be Hunter.  They have to be separated to prevent fighting.  If I have to hear about who is sitting where, they both sit in the back, separated of course.  Problem solved.

4.  I asked them to do their chores on Saturday.  They ignored me and did nothing.  I did not nag, plead, bribe, etc.  Sunday, they got to spend the day in their rooms, except .for when we went to church.  I had a pleasant day, and Monday morning when I told them to do their chores, they did.  It's working.

5. The screaming.  Constant screaming, primarily from Kyler.  Although Tristan seems to be following in his brothers' footsteps in that he doesn't talk (he's 18 months now).  He says "uh oh", and occasionally says "Mommy" or "Daddy", but I'm not sure if that's because he's calling us or because those are the most commonly screamed words around here.  So he screams all day.  It's getting worse by the day, and has only really started in the last couple of weeks.  He screamed some in church yesterday.  Kyler's screaming frays my nerves and literally causes me ear pain.  His screaming is more or less innocent in that it is when he is "playing" (i.e. running around the house like he alone is a herd of wild hyenas), or just like many little kids screams instead of talking normally (so that he can never hear anyone but himself) but it hurts my ears and my psyche none the less.  Hunter isn't around as much since he's in school, but he loves to scream when he is.  When we had the cookie exchange, Hunter came along and screamed something and one of the ladies jumped out of her skin and actually got after him because it hurt her ears.  I was so glad she did that!  It tells me I'm not crazy - the screaming is painful and must stop, and the more people reinforcing that to the children the better.  So, taking a cue from John Rosemond, I informed Kyler that from now on, when he needs to scream, he may go to the bathroom, close the door, go to the far corner, and feel free to scream his brains out for 15 minutes.  So whenever he screams for whatever reason, he goes to the bathroom (which of course he doesn't want to) and is free to scream all he wants.  Surprise, though (not for me, actually), the last thing he generally does is scream in there.  He is confined for 15 minutes to think about not screaming.  It is working.  The screaming is much less. 

6.  This could go on forever.  Whenever I run errands with the boys, and that includes the eight-year old, I have to spend the whole time beckoning them to me.  They don't just follow me into the store, or stay by my side.  I literally must redirect them every few seconds, as though I was herding cats.  I finally realized that that was ridiculous.  Again, the monkey was on my back.  I informed Kyler that he would be spending an hour in his room for every time that I had to call him to me.  You'll never guess.  Instead of lagging behind a mile, or straying constantly, he stays with me.  It's a miracle.  So far I think he's only spent an hour in his room for that one.  The monkey is on his back, and he's making the change.  That's the whole point of all this.  I cannot change their attitudes or behavior.  My efforts are to give them enough reason to change themselves.  As J.R. says, "a well behaved child is a happy child" - and I might add that such children have happier mothers.

There are too many behaviors to list them all, but I'm seeing an improvement.  Hunter still has the 6:30 bed time, and likely will through the school year, because he still doesn't care enough to do his homework without being told, and I still find socks hidden all over the house, etc. etc. etc.  But at least I have pleasant evenings now (instead of having the equivalent of a pack of coyotes running loose in the house until all hours).  I generally send Kyler to bed then as well, and Tristan if he's ready. 

Hopefully Dean will notice a great improvement in two months.


Adriane said...

I think when we sign up for parenthood somebody should warn us that we'll need massive amounts of ingenious problem-solving skills, strokes of brilliance, and an iron-clad resolve, lol! Girls (ie Sade) might not be as active, but can be pretty trying at times too - plenty of drama and attitude around here! :) Hope your time with Dean away passes quickly!

Laura McBride said...

I've never done this before, but I downloaded the book on my iPod and look forward to having some of the successes you have had! Keep up the hard work girl!

KaNdRa and JaReD said...

Motherhood is THE hardest job. I didn't understand the full meaning until I had my second. It is thankless, tireing, frustrating and not at all glamorous. I couldn't imagine doing what you are doing without any family or your husband to help. Hang in there. Sounds like you are on the right track.

OUR HOUSE said...

Great post Becky, I'm glad things are starting to improve. I literally laughed out loud when I read the phrase "killing appropriately":)

The Merrills said...

You make childhood something to look forward to as a parent...